Tag: loss

thing 30: ‘we are the wood drake’: reading together

‘… and then you’d think aha! something interesting is going to happen and then someone would mention Derrida and it would all be over…’

Thus my friend Simon, speaking about his time reading English at Oxford and the death-by-theory thing which can so often happen during formal study. I know what he means. In my very first group supervision at Cambridge we were issued copies of a poem—I have repressed the knowledge of what it was, if I ever knew—and the Director of Studies’ opening gambit (more…)

thing 22: ‘… in this blank of things, a harmony’: a night under canvas

’96 cans of beer, or 3 dead otters.’

This was Jana’s response when I asked how much the big cool-box held. But before you get on the blower to the RSPCA, let me add that part of her work supports a research programme about otters, which involves the collection and study of otter-corpses. Makes sense, of course, to cool them: minimise whiff, preserve the maximum amount of information… Still. I was kinda glad we were using a different cool-box for our trip. (Plus: (more…)

‘vitae summa brevis spem nos vetat incohare longam’, Ernest Dowson

‘The brief sum of life forbids us the hope of enduring long’ or ‘the shortness of life forbids us long hopes’ —Horace

They are not long, the weeping and the laughter,
Love and desire and hate:
I think they have no portion in us after
We pass the gate.

They are not long, the days of wine and roses:
Out of a misty dream
Our path emerges for a while, then closes
Within a dream.

Although this poem is about a great deal more than lost youth, still, the opening of stanza two is what was running round and round in my head while I was in Oxford, and when I contemplated my time there afterwards. For me, the lines chimed with a melancholy note; but I can equally see that there can be some comfort—if perhaps a coolish comfort!—in its reminder that everything passes. I love how that “everything” is so economically and powerfully evoked in the poem’s images: ‘the weeping and the laughter/ Love and desire and hate’, ‘the days of wine and roses’. However this poem hits you—and I think that can vary from moment to moment as well as from person to person—there is a plangent beauty in this brief, apparently-simple poem which makes it one to return to, whatever your current mood.

thing 14: ‘the dearest freshness deep down things’: lamb-hunting

Call me Ishmael.

Don’t worry, though. I’m not talking harpoons or shotguns here. It’s just that I do get possessed, each spring, by a need to find and gaze upon lambs—the wobblier and boing-ier the better. The obsession comes on really strong in early February and lasts till Mayish, when wild-swimming fever takes over. So there was never any question that lamb-hunting would be a Thing.

And now it’s time! It is a bright cold day in February and the flocks are dotting the green. Well-swaddled, I (more…)

‘pack up the moon and dismantle the sun’: some new books

It’s new-book-joy time again, so kettle on, phone off, biscuits out…

A couple of new poetry books have gone into the WTAK collection. The Art of Losingedited by Kevin Young, and In Memoriam: Poems of Bereavement, introduced by Carol Ann Duffy, are both now nestled on the anthologies shelf. The second was a Christmas present (thanks, Naomi!); the first has been my companion for a while.

You can read more about them on the bookshelf pages (hover over the titles). Here, I’ll content myself with saying that, while the first is a long, comprehensive book and the second a mere slip of a slim volume, both are very approachable. And both are wonderful things to offer someone who might be going through loss—or to have on hand if you yourself are in need of comfort and companionship during a grief. Even if neither of those applies, though, these are simply great collections of poems, doing what all good poetry does: reminding us of what it is to be human, reminding us that, almost certainly, whatever we are experiencing, we are not alone in it.